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Richmond, VA, June 28, 2012

Lavoisier Medal Recipient Herb Blades visits DuPont Spruance Site

Herb Blades visited the DuPont Spruance site in Richmond, Va., where he toured the Kevlar® and Tyvek® manufacturing areas. In this photo, several bobbins of Kevlar® fiber can be seen behind him on the left.

Herbert “Herb” Blades, retired DuPont scientist instrumental in the commercialization of DuPont™ Kevlar® and Tyvek®, recently visited the DuPont Spruance site in Virginia.  He toured both the Kevlar® and Tyvek® manufacturing areas, and held interactive Q&A sessions with DuPont scientists and engineers.

Employees welcomed Blades to Spruance with visual displays of gratitude such as posters and monitor messages, while also taking the time to thank him personally for his significant accomplishments while working for DuPont.

Herb had been with DuPont only a year when he began his experiments with Tyvek®.  His work on flash spinning and air-gap spinning was absolutely critical to the commercialization of Tyvek® and Kevlar®. In both cases, Herb turned a laboratory curiosity into a successful, scalable process.

When asked why he thought so many products were launched during that time in DuPont history he gives credit to DuPont employees, including Hale Charch, who believed the time was right for DuPont to explore polymer science and created a fabled list of “The top 10 fiber objectives.” He believes this lead to the invention of products such as DuPont™ Kevlar®, Nomex® and Tyvek®, among others.

Roger Siemionko, global technology leader working on Corporate Advanced Materials, added, “ DuPont is doing the same thing in the agriculture, food and biotech categories today that we did for fibers 40 years ago. In material science I believe our work on nanofibers and new technologies like Energain™ separators will lead to exciting future innovations.” Herb added that linking fundamental science with market needs is always a valid approach for new product development.

When asked what Herb thought of the current processes for making Kevlar® and Tyvek®, he replied, “I’m impressed with the elegance of the operation. Fabric used to be produced on a loom in inches per hour. Today Tyvek® is produced in miles per hour – that’s an impressive gadget!”